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Kristian Segerstrale lecture from 2011
This week I wanted to share an awesome lecture video from 2011, where Super Evil Megacorp CEO Kristian Segerstråle is talking at the Summer of Startups event in Helsinki. Kristian and his co-founders had just recently sold Playfish to EA, and he’s sharing his top 5 lessons from being an entrepreneur in gaming for ten years.
You can watch the video here, and below are my key takeaways from the lessons.
Lesson 1 – Build a bold vision, then make it bigger
I see the story of building a company, where you are reaching for that ultimate vision, it’s like climbing a mountain. Each stage that you reach on the mountain climb is something that you should articulate. What happens when you get the first game out, what happens after the second game, what is the company doing when they have a million players. Figure out the steps on the mountain trail and start taking them.
Kristian says, “For you to attract world-class investors who ultimately help you build that big company, your vision has to be big enough. So whenever you have your vision statement in your business plan, think about how you can make it bigger? How can you make it more compelling? How can you make it even more all-encompassing? The same thing can be said for talent. The best people in the world, by definition, make the best startups in the world. You will attract the best talent by having the biggest vision. It’s that simple.”
Lesson 2 – Raise more money than you need, from people you would hire
Raising money is a massive distraction: “You should raise the amount of money compatible with the size of your vision, not with the size of your cash needs right now. So the reason to do that is one raising money is a massive distraction. It’s time away from spending time with your team and your product.”
“The more you spend time raising money, the more people want to hear from you, the more they’re going to send you emails and ask for this detail in that detail in your cap table in your current plans and your title plan for the next 10 years. All sorts of things it is enormously distracting. Your superpower is being an entrepreneur, not being a pitch person.”
Lesson 3 – Develop strategic capabilities through securing strategic talent
I think this was the most exciting point of the lecture, and quite evident to me now after being at Supercell when Kristian was advising the founders. Supercell had the best product and user acquisition talent. I really love the concept of strategic capabilities in gaming.
As Kristian says: “Look at the things that you know our long term value drivers for you versus transient shorter-term things. Be paranoid about blind spots here.”
“Understand what you’re strong at. Then what you’re weak at, and hire world-class talent to do that. Hard to do, but find a way to do it. Find an investor to help you with that. Find a way to outsource it. Find a way to just kidnap somebody. It’ll be expensive. It’ll be difficult.”
“When starting Playfish, my blind spot was not to know how transformational high scalability engineering talent is. I was like: coding is coding, I made games for six years, how hard can it be? As it turns out, you actually need a ton of strong talent across the board and you need really strong engineering leaders.”
“Hire as senior as you can. Pay the price. When you have a little bit of traction, get the best people in the world. One of the best things that Zynga ever did was to attract a ton of world-class talent. They recognized their own blind spots in making great games. And they raided all the big games companies to get their best game development talent. Really ruthlessly and methodically and they did a really good job. So that’s a good example of understanding that you needed to build this strategic capability and then you went out and secured strategic talent for it.”
Lesson 4 – Keep it simple
Laser focus, one business. Choose one model. For two years, only one business. Otherwise, you will defocus yourself and the company.
Kristian says: “Complexity is kryptonite for entrepreneurs. It’s very, very hard to create a business and run a business. You might think that investors are going to want to hear all these wonderful business models and new markets you are going to conquer, but actually the savvy investors want to hear focus.”
Lesson 5 – Become (or hire) a master storyteller
Storytelling is the ultimate skill for a founder. People are firstly interested in an interesting opinion, not you or your company. That will come later. Same with presentation, keep it simple!
Kristian says: “Storytelling is about developing a story that’s worth listening to. And to learning to tell it in a way, which is captivating and interesting that people want to listen to. When you’re at a pitch event, VCs hear 100 pitches every week. You want yours to stand out. For the world-class talent, you need to be able to tell your story in a way which is gonna get them to join.”
“As an entrepreneur, you’re a storyteller, you’ve got to live with that. If you decide that that’s not what you’re good at, because that’s really tough and it is hard right? One: you can learn it. But even more important, you can hire it, you can go ahead and hire Peter Vesterbacka to tell your story because he will tell it in a way which will be entertaining.
“Storytelling is the most effective industry marketing by some margin. It’s much more effective than hiring a PR agency. You’ve got to tell your story. You’ve got to go out there and be able to understand what your story means for the industry, why it’s relevant, and how to tell it in a way, which is captivating.”
And there’s more. Watch the video here.
VC Podcasts and VC Twitter — When it comes to understanding fundraising and startups, the best source for me when it comes to new knowledge on topics, have been podcasts and Twitter. I’m always listening to VCs sharing their thoughts on podcasts and Twitter. In this article, I want to share the best resources with you, so that you’ll learn from the best.
Gaming investor Bertrand Vernizeau talks about his focus on investing into PC and console in the time where everybody is backing mobile. He talks about his approach, which is quite different to other VCs in gaming, how he makes intelligent investing decisions what the scene looks like for PC and console developers going forward.
Webinar: Work From Home For Game Teams
I’m so thrilled to announce the Work From Home For Game Teams webinar, which I’m hosting on May 15th with the one and only Sophie Vo from Voodoo. Sign up now to hear the insights!
Visit this page to register to the webinar.
Articles Worth Reading
+ Seth Sivak on building effective teams — “As Proletariat continues to grow, I have found success using this methodology to build effective teams. By analyzing the level of each team within the company it has allowed me to better support the leads and team members. Teams can look at their current level and focus on the important changes needed to move up.”
+ Attempt to design a game as good or better than Adventure Communist — Paul Leydon’s part 2 to building an Adventure Communist clone. Paul shares his understanding on how to design a game. But this video is so much more. The big takeaway: “Are you willing to do everything necessary to accomplish this?” It’s a beautiful, deep video.
+ Level Up Your Battle Pass Monetization — Alexandre Macmillan does a deep dive to help you better design your Battle Pass and improve your monetization. It’s so much about engagement and making the player “play” the game through the pass. Then, add pinches when needed.
+ Fast Forward Games — A group of European gaming industry executives, angels, and VCs have come together to launch the Fast Forward Games initiative, to enable a faster and more efficient fundraising process for gaming startups in these tough times. The concept is simple: the founder sends their pitch deck, get quick feedback and advice on the best way to get funding. Then there’s a fast track to the VCs or angels in the group. They will answer in 48 hours.
Quote that I’m thinking about
“The common thread with Travis Kalanick, Ev Williams, Kevin Systrom, is that they were never trying to sell me. Their heart rate didn’t change, and they weren’t trying to get me excited about it. Instead, it worked the other way around where they just spoke with this inevitability of the success of their thing, and I got drawn into that.” — Chris Sacca, on Lindzanity with Howard Lindzon